Peter Devlin hopes he can perform on the Shootout stage as well as he did with singer Jessie J earlier this week. The 25-year-old Londoner is a former children’s TV presenter turned snooker professional – with a notable side-line as a rapper.
And world No85 Devlin enjoyed some unusual preparation for the quickfire tournament featuring single-frame matches of 10 minutes maximum and a shot-clock dropping to 10 seconds.
Attending a concert of the 33-year-old with No1s ‘Price Tag’ and ‘Bang Bang’ to her name, Devlin shouted out offering to sing the Nicki Minaj rap verse for the latter. And the player in danger of falling off tour this season got a big break - being invited onto stage and right on cue for a duet that brought the house down at the Lafayette venue.
Devlin, who takes on Iran’s Hossein Vafaei on Friday night in Leicester at the Morningside Arena, said: “Because it was a fairly small acoustic concert Jessie was talking to the crowd and could hear people shouting out.
“Then she said ‘I’m going to sing ‘Bang Bang’ now, but obviously I don’t have Ariana Grande here, or Nicki Minaj here to sing her rap verse’. And I shouted out ‘I’ll do Nicki’s rap’, and she thought about it for a moment and then said ‘Okay then’. Weirdly I had visualised that happening the night before.
“I was trembling before getting on stage, but then the nerves were all gone. That was annoying in a way, because put me in a snooker arena when it matters and I don’t always handle the nerves.
“But on this stage in front of hundreds, no problem. So it was awesome and a great feeling. Of course I think about my career choices. In terms of fame and money and exposure, you could say I picked the wrong path and might be in the wrong industry.
What an amazing experience last night!
I got to perform live on stage in a packed arena with my favourite singer @JessieJ
It's a long video but a good watch 😂
An incredible buzz, thanks so much to her for that opportunity! She was bloody amazing herself!! The best!
“In snooker you have got to be the best in the world like a Ronnie O’Sullivan or Judd Trump or Mark Selby, and you’d still get less recognition than someone who is bang average at music. And more people will have heard of Jessie J than any of them. But I have done snooker since I was 10 and I will never forget the incredible highs it has given me.
“It has given me some terrible lows as well, but the feelings of satisfaction of being a pro having worked so hard for it can’t be beaten. The snooker buzz lasts longer than a few minutes.
“I could lose my place on tour this summer, I am in danger – but even if that happened I would go to qualifying school and battle to get back on. Some people have said ‘This has happened, you should stick to it and is that the end of the snooker?’.
“But this was just one concert that I went to – and next morning it was back to practice again. Don’t get me wrong, the buzz was incredible being up on stage in front of 750 people and gives you great feelings. It was the first proper concert I had been to.
“And Jessie J is genuinely my favourite artist, so when I saw she was coming from Los Angeles to London for a visit and doing a show, I wanted to be there. The tickets were all gone but I managed to get one from a super-fan for double the price.
“But snooker is what I have done all my life and gives me those same feelings, it is what I have done all my life and will always come first.”
It is understandable that Devlin’s thoughts may occasionally wander into consideration of his career choice – picking his lifetime love for snooker over potential alternatives given his music, rapping and song-writing prowess.
To date, since gaining his tour card via the notoriously tough Qualifying School back in 2020, he has earned just £22,000 in prize money – and that is before the considerable expenses incurred for travel and accommodation.
Those have been reduced due to the lack of overseas events during the Covid pandemic, but equally the number of more lucrative tournaments and the level of earning potential has also been trimmed.
So far Devlin’s best performance as a snooker pro came in last season’s European Masters played at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, where he beat three-time world champion Mark Williams 5-4 on his way to the last 16, eventually going down 5-3 to Martin Gould.
Claiming the £50,000 first prize at the Shootout, widely considered to be something of a lottery despite its full ranking-event status, would more than treble Devlin’s career earnings to date. But despite the trials and tribulations his chosen profession has brought him and the possible alternatives, snooker remains Devlin’s one true love.
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